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27 Jul, 2019 02:15

Troubled nuclear fuel plant in S. Carolina kept radioactive trash in LEAKY & RUSTY container

Troubled nuclear fuel plant in S. Carolina kept radioactive trash in LEAKY & RUSTY container

A rusty shipping container full of uranium-tainted trash was found to be seeping contaminated sludge into the soil at Westinghouse fuel rod factory in S. Carolina, adding another radiation spike to the facility’s list of troubles.

Uranium levels in the ground at one spot underneath the container are nearly double the 11ppm safety standard, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reported on Friday, blaming the facility’s egregious waste storage protocol for the contamination. Rain entered through a hole in the 40-foot container’s roof, dousing the barrels full of radioactive trash stashed within, and the uranium-tainted water eventually trickled into the soil.

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Irresponsibly-stored nuclear waste is only the most recent misfortune to plague the plant, located just outside the city of Columbia. Last year, the massive facility was found to be leaking uranium through a hole in its floor, and earlier this month a drum full of radioactive waste exploded and caught on fire. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been investigating the plant since 2016, when it was discovered uranium had been allowed to accumulate inside an air pollution control device at three times the federal safety standard. And Westinghouse had not even bothered to report earlier leaks in 2008 and 2011 to regulators. Groundwater beneath the factory is contaminated, and locals fear it will spread off the grounds – or that it already has.

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Plant manager Mike Annacone blamed “a number of issues” for allowing dozens of shipping containers full of uranium-tainted garbage similar to the leaky one to build up on the grounds of the Westinghouse facility. The waste – mop heads and rags used to clean up radioactive material – is meant to be processed to recover usable uranium, but that processing has fallen impossibly far behind schedule, and the cursory once-overs given the aging, rusting boxes by plant workers have allowed appalling conditions to develop.

We should not allow that condition to exist on our site,” Annacone said in a joint presentation with the DHEC at a community meeting on Thursday, promising to process the remaining material and test the soil underneath each container for contamination as it is emptied.

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